March 2012 Issue - English Draughts Association Journal - “Anderson’s Second Edition by Chris Reekie (permission from Chris to publish on web)

Anderson’s Second Edition

by Chris Reekie

One hundred and sixty years ago this spring, a landmark in the history of draughts occurred with the publication of a second book by Andrew Anderson, the stocking weaver at the village of Braidwood, beside Carluke, Lanarkshire, who was the game's first world champion.

“The Game of Draughts Simplified", which appeared in April 1852, set the rules of the game where before there had been considerable laxity. His first book, "Anderson's Guide to the Game of Draughts", had appeared four years earlier in 1848. Although both books are important, it is the latter that became famous as "Anderson's Second Edition".

Let us correct at once inaccuracies which have been printed ever since. First, "Anderson's Second Edition" was not the second edition of "Anderson's Guide". It was not a second edition of an earlier title, with the same text, as readers might expect from, say, a second edition of a Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie story. "The Game of Draughts Simplified" was, in his own words, "the second edition of the author's works". The two books have different titles and different contents.

Second, it was not 1848, but 1852, that set the standard. In the 1911 edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica, (a treasured edition of that renowned tome), there is a long and informative account of the history of draughts, which, helpfully, traces the world championship through Anderson, Wyllie, Ferrie, and Richard Jordan. It was written by Jordan and James Dallas. Mentioning Anderson, they said: "A first edition had appeared in 1848, but the second print is the important one". W. T Call, in "The Literature of Checkers", (1908), specified both books by their titles (nos. 23 and 26 in his list) and said that 1852 was "technically known as Anderson's Second".

On the significance of 1852, Jordan and Dallas said it "standardised the laws of the game, fixed the nomenclature of the openings, introduced a better arrangement of the play, and, since Anderson was one of the finest players of the game, excelled in accuracy". Call said: "It at once raised a haphazard art to the dignity of a science".

I have seen both books in the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh, where this research was done. The first, printed by R. Wood, of Lanark, has 73 pages and little advice. Anderson, in his preface, thought it was superfluous to give directions as readers would be acquainted with the mode of playing. Clearly he underestimated demand, and received encouragement from friends and subscribers to go further. His second, printed by John Neilson, Glasgow, has 154 pages and offers much more guidance. The first gives 58 games and variations. One of its merits is that it gives some of the games Anderson played with Wyllie in their epic match in Edinburgh in February and March of 1847. That famous contest lasted for 16 days at the Robin Hood Tavern at the east end of Princes Street, (near the equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington), and ended with Anderson the winner by nine games to six, with 31 draws. One game lasted four and a half hours, and it appears to have been the final, which gave Anderson his ninth win after, according to John McKerrow, he had despaired of securing it because "Wyllie's defence was so good".

The 1852 book gives games arising from 15 openings and 648 variations. The author arranged these in what became known as "Andersonised play", every variation in a new column from the main column. He broke new ground by making every game start with black, replacing the confusing old method of black and white having the first move alternately. He decreed also that all the play would be on the black squares, so quashing use of the white squares. Custom was for play in Scotland to be on the black squares and in England on white. Anderson's laws became "binding upon the players of any place where it is customary to play on white squares".

In drawing up the standard laws of the game, Anderson conferred with 21 other persons, 19 in Glasgow, one in Newcastle, and one in Bristol. In his preface written at Braidwood on 24 April 1852, he said that the laws were first framed by the Glasgow players and copies transmitted to the various draughts clubs in Britain as well as many of the best players not in clubs. From the testimonies of approval and amendments received, "the new code of laws now sanctioned throughout the whole realm, has been, with the greatest care, brought into the present form by the gentlemen who first drafted them".

The laws said that the standard board must be of light and dark squares and the men, technically described as white and black, must be light and dark, say white and red or white and black. In a footnote, Anderson recommended the universal use of red and white men on the black squares. "As red and white men show a beautiful contrast, it is desirable to choose these in preference to any other; and, if they be placed on the black squares, they will appear to greater advantage than white and black men upon either black or white squares."

He is credited with being the first man to name draughts openings successfully after John Drummond had broken this ground. The second edition gives 15 openings by name, with origin and formation, some long known to most Scots players. If Anderson did not originate the names, it was evident, as Jordan and Dallas said, that he "fixed the nomenclature".

In his 1852 preface, Anderson said that after his first edition he had received complaints "about errors where none existed". Delivering a reprimand, he said: "It should hardly be thought necessary to remind players, who are conscious themselves of not rising above mediocrity, that in many games there may be moves, the scope and tendency of which they do not understand, and the merits of which they cannot appreciate at first sight."

Old parish registers show that Anderson was born at Braidwood on 3 May 1799. The 1841 Census shows that he and his wife, Catherine Forrest, who died in 1842, had five sons. He died, aged 61, at Braidwood on 1 March 1861. Local newspapers marked his passing under a heading "Death of Anderson the draught-player". He was given eight lines in obituaries in the April issue of The Gentleman's Magazine, which was a testimony to his reputation, as the London periodical each month printed long lists of births, marriages, and deaths among the nobility and gentry.

His famous work became an essential manual for players, and champions followed his rules, among them Robert Stewart and Newell Banks in their world championship match in 1922. Robert McCulloch, of Glasgow, obtained Anderson's copyright and published a third edition in 1878, using Anderson's own corrections and improvements. McCulloch's Anderson was re-issued in the same year and then in 1887, 1894, and 1905, these known as the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh editions.

Anderson family details are given by permission of the Registrars of Scotland.

Copyright Chris Reekie 2012.  Chris Reekie's Original Article

Articles  | 6/2011 English Draughts Journal - "Richard Jordan, unbeaten world champion"   | March - 2008 The Scots Magazine - "The High Priest of The Dambrod" 

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